Cabernet Franc is one of the most planted wine grapes in the world and is a key ingredient in many of the world’s best blended wines, but it is far less famous than other red wine varieties. Because Cab Franc is one of the parents of Cabernet Sauvignon, the two grapes have a lot of similarities, but there are some key differences. Cab Franc has lighter pigments, stronger aromas, lighter tannins and lower acidity. When blended, it is these characteristics that take a harsh edge off of stronger wines.
While great when blended, with the right conditions (and winemaker) Cab Franc is a tasty guy all on his own. Maybe it is the appreciation for what it takes to produce a great bottle of Cab Franc or just the hunt to find one, Cab Franc is one of my top favorite varietals. Fortunately, on our recent trips to Santa Ynez and Napa Valley, we were lucky to taste quite a few!
SANTA YNEZ VALLEY
Foxen 7200 2009 Cabernet Franc – Rock Hollow Vineyard
100 % Cab Franc ~ Great deep berry taste at first sip, and stays throughout, heavier tannins and a light spicy finish. While drinkable now, the heavy tannins indicate it will age quite nicely as well. Retail $42
Gainey Vineyards 2008 Limited Selection Cabernet Franc
75% Cab Franc, 23% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot ~ the nose has distinct notes of elderberry and herbs, bright red fruits throughout and the Merlot brings a musty finish to the party, tannins present but buried on the back end. Retail $42
Rusack 2008 Anacapa, Santa Barbara County
82% Cab Franc, 16% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot ~ the nose has classic herbaceous qualities, flavors of raspberry and plum, solid tannins with a great spice finish. The 2008 is low in quantity, but the ’09 is waiting in the wings for release – and hear it is equally as tasty, if not better! Retail $40
NAPA VALLEY REGION
Peju Winery Cabernet Franc
Peju is known for their Cab Francs, consistently producing great ones year after year. We had the opportunity to taste the ’05, ’09 and ’08 Reserve. The ’05 has classic pencil box smell, great mid-palate berry flavors, lighter tannins and more delicate. The ’09 is blended with 12% Cab Sav, has a terrific herbaceous nose, bright red fruits and great tannins (will benefit from aging). The ’08 Reserve received our prestigious ‘pfg’ rating (will let you figure that one out), well-structured wine, velvety palate, with tastes of black currants, dark cherries, and toasted wood with subtle hints of vanilla. ’05 and ’09 Retail $50, ’08 Reserve Retail $115
Miner Family Winery 2008 Napa Valley
100% Cab Franc ~ perfect herbaceous nose, bold plum and dark cherry flavors throughout the palate with heavy tannins. Drink now along with a big, juicy grilled steak or age and let it mellow out a little. This wine was also awarded our ‘pfg’ ranking, and double smiley faces! Retail $50
Clos Pegase Winery 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Franc
100% Cab Franc ~ earthy nose, notes of cherries and currants, medium weight on the palate with a cocoa finish. This is a well-balanced wine that would pair well with strong flavored cheese. Retail $28.50
Kuleto Estate 2008 Cabernet Franc
100% Cab Franc ~ smells like a vegetable garden, brighter fruits sitting forward on the palate, and heavier tannin finish for a cab franc. When paired with strong cheese, the tannins mellowed allowing for the fruit to stand out more. Definitely better with food. Retail $60
Wondering what to pair with a Cab Franc? Enjoy it with roasted or grilled meat, lamb, duck or pork, and roasted vegetables, especially eggplant. It will stand up to spicier dishes as well ~ add some Cajon spice to that steak, slice some eggplant and zucchini and grill away!